By Daniel Shim, Industry Strategy and Insights

Per annual tradition, the NRF’s Big Show convention was a large and boisterous concoction of new technologies, brands and ideas. Unlike past years, where I shuffled my way among vendors and their products and services, this year I wanted to focus on trailblazing, unproven concepts and ideas that would really resonate with me.
Not surprisingly, a convention of this size and scale was a perfect forum for me to experience that. This year’s Big Show featured the “Exhibitor BIG !deas” speaker series which covered a variety of topics. One of the talks that immediately caught my interest was aptly titled, “Shoppers Disrupted: Retailing through the Noise.” The main presentation was provided by Kali Kalena, Global Retail Leader at IBM’s Institute for Business Value. She focused on a variety of disruptive trends, but what I found to be most refreshing is the amount of time she spent addressing the voice of a key constituency that often gets ignored within the chaos of the Big Show – the shoppers!


After all, what are we doing here at this convention in the first place? Admittedly, many businesses are interacting with each other to forge relationships and make decisions to benefit their respective organizations, but at the end of the day we’re all here to better serve the consumer, right?

It was a key focal point in Ms. Kalena’s presentation as she directed the audience’s attention to data and research that revealed the voice of the shopper. For example, she displayed a series of data sets that tracked the volume of online purchases compared to the consumer’s “level of enjoyment” of their online shopping experience.

Not surprisingly, shoppers who enjoyed their digital shopping experience the most also tended to convert more. However, the results varied dramatically between verticals. For example, in consumer electronics 68% of online shoppers enjoyed their shopping experience and 54% of them made a purchase, compared to poor performers such as the personal care category, where only 25% of shoppers enjoyed their shopping experience and only 15% made a transaction.

To me, the data indicates the shifting dynamics of digital commerce. Long gone are the days where the utility and convenience factor of shopping online mattered the most. For a share of their wallet, shoppers want enhanced content, creative merchandising and powerful branding. In short, shoppers are asking for more, and are very specific about what they want. That said, as an industry, retail has a long way to go. Based on Ms. Kalena’s research, of the major verticals, only consumer electronics had a “level of enjoyment” response that was greater than 50%. In other words, less than half of the shoppers in the apparel, footwear and home décor verticals were pleased with their online experience. Room for improvement is vast and the opportunity is immense.

As the talk concluded and I meandered back to the din of the exhibitor booths, I envisioned a bullhorn that would be loud enough to remind everybody, “Don’t forget about the shoppers!”